Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan is the Elvis Presley of amber fragrances – it’s left the building, but its influence is still felt everywhere. Its sugar rush of resins playing tag with dry, aromatic herbs is a motif riffed on by countless ambers since, such as Mitzah (Dior), Amber Absolute (Tom Ford), and, though Chanel would rather die than admit it, even a teeny tiny corner of Le Lion.
Why ‘left the building’? Well, two reasons. First, I have just drained the last drops from my bottle. Second, for such an immediately thick, knotted muscle of a thing (#thuglife), Ambre Sultan is surprisingly short-lived on the skin.
Ambre Sultan will never not smell glorious to me, though. The love child of a Christmas tree and a lump of cassonade, it smells like a golden resin melting down on your skin on a hot day, then hardening again like a layer of shellac. It is light and dark all at once, its breathy presence one of dusty books, sunlit herbs, burnt incense, and polished wood.
Now that I’ve drained the last drops of Ambre Sultan, I’m eyeing Dior’s Mitzah like the last slice of pizza. I am also reassuring myself that, in the absence of Ambre Sultan, I can always suckle at the tit of its genus (Shalimar, according to Luca Turin). But ah! There is a special, rough-hewed charm to Ambre Sultan that is quite different to that of Shalimar, and I will miss it. After all, though Elvis’ music surely owed a great debt to that of Carl Perkins and Little Richard, nobody shook their hips quite like Elvis.
Cover Image: My own photo of a sadly depleted bottle.
Source of sample: I purchased my bottle of Ambre Sultan in Rome in 2014.